PREPARE TO LISTEN. Be silent and still and then pray: I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11).
READ: Mark 14:43-52 Station 2: Mt of Olives. ‘Jesus’ arrest’
43Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 46Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ 50All of them deserted him and fled. 51A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
To avoid the crush of the usual crowds around Jesus, Judas struck late at night. He brought “a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.” We can presume that Jesus’ opponents expected armed resistance from Jesus and his faithful followers. But, only one sword came to Jesus’ defense. Mark mentions this without comment, (unlike the other three Gospels; see Matthew 26:52, Luke 22:51 and John 18:11, that include Jesus’ command to the sword-wielder to put it away.) However, Jesus offered no resistance. He’d accepted God’s will and peacefully offered himself to his opposition. He saw it as fulfillment of scriptures, a higher authority than the religious leaders who ordered his arrest, and thus Jesus willingly submits to arrest.
Judas, who’d been part of the intimate sharing of bread with Jesus at Passover here identifies him with an intimate embrace and kiss, having ordered the armed group to “arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Even Judas expected resistance. When the disciples realized that Jesus would not resist the arrest, that he had accepted a role prescribed in scriptures, one they’d failed to understand, they did exactly what Jesus said they would do: “All of them deserted him and fled.”
All but one, an unnamed young man, “wearing nothing but a linen cloth.” Only Mark records this incident and, since Mark never wastes words or uses stories as mere ‘fillers,’ there is a reason for this brief cameo. To see in this story nothing more than a personal revelation by the author (he was the young man) misses the point entirely. Ched Meyers is blunt, suggesting such an interpretation (one I’ve been guilty of) insults “the literary integrity of the gospel” (Binding the Strong Man. 1991, p. 368). Mark is preparing readers for a symbolic link between this young man and anther who also wore a white robe (i.e., a linen cloth). He appears at the very end of Mark’s Gospel, announcing Jesus’ resurrection to the women who came to the tomb, with the command to tell the disciples (16:5-7). The young man in our lesson today is representative of the discipleship community that fled in shame (naked). The young man at the end of Mark’s story represents the renewed discipleship community that will tell of Jesus’ resurrection. There is still hope, albeit subtly veiled, that the story will turn out well in the end. If we make the link between these two young men, we too can keep hope alive, despite the messes in our world.
Violent resistance often seems the most effective way when under attack by an enemy, whether through physical or verbal means. Why do you think Jesus resisted violence, accepting his destiny in peaceful non-violence?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
To be like you is what I so want, Jesus, until it conflicts with my raw emotions when I’m under attack. Help me learn to respond in peace as you did. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST who never resisted violence against himself.